Middle Teton is the second peak from the left with the Grand Teton at the center
Climbing the Middle Teton, Grand Teton N.P., Wyoming
Elevation: 12,804'       Elevation Gain: 6072'         Class 3/4

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July 29, 2015 - Middle Teton is one of the three great Teton peaks for which
Grand Teton National Park gets it's name. Located in the center of the 
Teton Range, Middle Teton is flanked by the more famous Grand Teton to
the north and the South Teton to the south.  As a warm up to climbing the
Grand Teton I asked my friend Rob Froelich from Bozeman to join me on a
day climb of the Middle Teton. The weather was forecast to be absolutely
perfect.  It would be a great opportunity to get a feel for the approach to
the Grand and an upclose look at the Grand from its nearest neighbor.


After a full-moon restful night, dawn broke early with a temperature sitting
right at 32 degrees.  Rob and I broke from camp at the Gros Ventre CG and
drove to the trailhead at Lupine Meadows.  While the morning air was crisp,
we were both invigorated and headed up the approach trail with some snap.
It did not take long for the air to warm with the sun's early rays, and as the
trail quickly climbed and the gorgeous landscape of the Teton Valley opened
up below us, we eased back on the throttle a bit and got into an all-day
climbing tempo.


The approach trail we were using would be the same one used next week to
climb the Grand.  It heads up into Garnet Canyon after three miles, passing
tent sites at the Platforms and the Meadows before reaching steeper terrain
where the paths to climb the Grand and the Middle Teton split.  Rob and I
would veer left to climb through and around a permanent glacial snow field
to a long climb through talus and boulders to reach the saddle from which
we would mount our final push to the summit of the Midle Teton.

While Rob opted to cross the glacier using traction support, I chose to 
circumvent its upper perimeter to avoid the dangers of crossing the snow.
I should have followed Rob.  The line I took turned out to be quite 
harrowing across very loose soil and rocks that seemed almost fluid.  I
don't get unnerved very often, but I put myself in a situation where I could 
have set off an avalanche of debris above the head of the glacier and 
careened off into a long slide along with it if I misstepped.  Very carefully
I was able to negotiate my crossing, breathing a major sigh of relief when
I reached terra firma on the upper side of the traverse.


Rob and I witnessed a young wolverine climbing up the glacial snow while
we were engaged in our individual challenges to get past this formidable
obstacle.  It's the first time I had ever seen a wolverine and was surprised
that they lived this far south.  Once we reached the shelf above we 
continued our long assault through fields of talus and boulders, weaving our
way toward the saddle on mostly broken trail.  


After awhile the boulder hopping and treacherous talus was taking its toll.  
The climb was taking an exceptionally long time, it seemed.  By the time
we reached the saddle between the South and Middle Teton, Rob felt his
feet had reached their limit and opted to wait for me there while I continued
to the top.  

There were perhaps a dozen other climbers on the mountain.  Some had 
camped at the Meadows, shortening their approach.  For those who were
day climbing, like Rob and me, the climb was 8 miles of tough going, which
would make for a long 16-mile day in hard terrain.  Rob chose wisely.  I was
more conditioned to dealing with high mountain terrain, so was quite within
my limits.  


It was nice to have climbers above you to see what line they were taking on
their climb.  That way you could follow them or chose a different line.  The
final push of about 1400 feet involves climbing up through the Southwest
Couloir of the Middle Teton to reach the ridge that takes you to the top.  The
snow in the couloir was mostly gone or I wouldn't have attempted it without
traction support.  The climbers above me in the couloir were tumbling down
rocks, so I opted to parallel them by climbing up the margin of the couloir to
the right to avoid rockfall.  It was a smoother route for me, as well as safer.
I was entertained on my way up by the raucous rantings of a raven rookery
on the cliffs above.  Fascinating creatures.  They seemed not to mind sharing
their abode with these interlopers.

Catching two young climbers named Alex and Matt from Baltimore, we angled
left out of the top of the couloir, made the ridge, and summited together.
Views of he Grand Teton immediately to the north were stunning.  I just
stood there in awe and was glad to get a picture in front of the mighty Grand.
The three of us hung out for twenty minutes with a couple brothers from
Asheville, NC, enjoying being on top of the magnificent Tetons, before I
broke from the group and began my descent back the way I came.


It had taken six and a half hours to summit.  I couldn't believe it took that
long.  The sky was blue, blue, blue in every direction, so there was no urgency
to get down.  The South Teton and beautiful Iceflow Lake below were right
in your face on the descent.  The talus and scree were loose so I exercised
great care in foot placement and didn't set off any debris.  I prefer to be
by myself when climbing and descending to avoid starting or dodging rockfall.

It didn't seem to take long to get back to the saddle and rejoin Rob.  From
there we moved steadily down the valley through the long talus and boulder
fields, back to crossing multiple snow fields and ultimately back down to the
camping sites before we'd once again walk on reasonably level trails along
Garnet Creek.  We were both getting sore feet and feeling fragged from the
all-day 16-mile roundtrip up the mountain.  By the time we reached the cars
at Lupine Meadows it had taken us twelve and a half hours to go up and back.

A tasty repast at the Snake River Brewery in Jackson had us healing our
wounds before the evening was over.  We found a place to park in the National 
Forest and it appears like neither of us is too much the worse for wear.  Time
to hit it again before taking a day of rest.  Just Love the Tetons.

South Teton from Middle Teton

Iceflow Lake from the Middle Teton

the Grand upclose
APPROACH: From Jackson, Wyoming, drive north 12 miles on highway 191 to Moose Junction and turn left (west). At Moose Junction, drive about seven miles to the sign for Lupine Meadows Trailhead. Turn left and follow the road about a mile to the trailhead. Expect a lot of cars at this trailhead. This is the most popular trail to the Middle Teton and the standard route to the summit. From Lupine Meadows Trailhead (6732 ft) follow the trail up through Garnet Canyon. At 1.7 miles the trail forks. Stay right and continue for 1.5 miles where the trail forks again. Go left, following the signs to Garnet Canyon. After 1.1 miles, the Platforms (8960 ft) campsites are reached. Shortly after, the trail crosses a moraine field and reaches the Meadows (9200 ft) camping area after another 1.0 miles. A trail forks to the south at the Meadows and climbs the south fork of Garnet Canyon to the saddle (10,560 ft) between South and Middle Tetons. Most routes can be accessed from the saddle. This is the standard route on the Middle Teton. From the Meadows, head up the south fork of Garnet Canyon. Going up this fork is more time consuming than the north fork due to a lack of a (decent) trail. Climb all the way to the saddle between the Middle and South Tetons (do not branch off right early). The couloir should now be obvious on the left (west) side of the ridge leading to the summit. If snow-filled, ice axe and crampons will be needed. It seems, however, that this couloir melts out relatively rapidly. It becomes quite narrow towards the top, and is a bowling alley if anyone is above you. Helmets recommended! The couloir tops out very near the summit.